Republicans launching early campaign to turn out voters

03/17/2014 3:28 PM

02/15/2015 10:42 AM

In an effort to defeat Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014 and sow the ground for 2016, national Republicans are making an early push to turn out voters in North Carolina.

Matt Pinnell, the Republican National Committee state party director, told reporters Monday the unprecedented effort will use data to target voters at precinct level and mirror the program in Florida that helped win the party a much-watched special election last week.

“We are in North Carolina earlier than we have ever been before,” he said. “We can’t just parachute in three months before an election cycle anymore and expect to win. ... We have to be on the ground, we have to be on the ground early.”

Republican Party officials said they began the “N.C. Boots on the Ground” campaign six months ago and about 10 staffers are working in North Carolina now. More staff are expected to help coordinate the precinct-level volunteers who will go door-to-door targeting voters with information and making sure they vote in 2014.

The data will prove valuable in the open presidential contest in 2016, in which North Carolina is positioned as a swing state once again. “We are looking at this as a lead in, really ramping up all the way to 2016,” said state Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope.

For now, the coordinated campaign for the U.S. Senate race is moving forward without its candidate, as Republicans engage in an increasingly sharp primary race and allow Democrats to focus on November.

Pope said the effort will back whoever wins the party’s nomination. Eight Republicans are vying for the slot in the primary. “Whoever wins that primary is going to know that the day after the primary they’ve already got an incredible operation – ground game – in place, ready to hit the ground running,” Pope said. “And we don’t care ultimately who that nominee is.”

Not all candidates are making it obvious they want party support. Greg Brannon has made remarks openly hostile toward the Republican Party as he courts tea party supporters. In 2012, Brannon said a vote for Republican Party nominee Mitt Romney was a vote for “tyranny.”

Pope sidestepped a question about Brannon’s remark about Romney. But he said the party’s get-out-the-vote operation would back Brannon if he was the Republican nominee. “We are going to run with whomever emerges from that (primary),” he said. “They are our guy and our gal.”

Democrats are mounting their own effort to get its voters to the polls through a coordinated campaign with Hagan’s team. Party operative Cory Warfield, who is leading the effort, said recently the campaign is “building one of the largest, savviest field operation and turnout efforts in history to elect Democrats across North Carolina.”

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